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From: "Gordon Brain" <gobrain@netcomuk.co.uk>
Subject: (urth) Mystery Play?
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 19:51:24 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

I tend to agree with Mantis that the full play is not shown. The dramatis
personae are listed in order of appearance. The fact that Angelic Beings,
New Sun, Old Sun & Moon are at the end of the list but have not yet
appeared on stage, implies that they are due to be seen in a subsequent
(and possibly last) scene. 

Baldander's actions at the end of the first performance may well have been
planned by Dr.Talos in order to acquire 'dropsies' from the audience, but
the indications are that this was not meant to happen at the House
Absolute. Severian states as much, and describes how the scene was meant to
end. Note he says 'end the scene', not end the play.  The logic of the
subject matter also implies that the play is meant to end with the coming
of the New Sun and Urth's rebirth (hence the back to front title:
Eschatology and Genesis). 

My first reactions on reading about the play were that it reminded me of a
medieval Mystery Play. These were performed out of doors, with scenes
mounted on a wagon-stage. Their subjects were usually biblical, including
The Creation, The Fall & Redemption Of Man, The Last Judgement and so on.
God, archangels, devils were portrayed, usually by males but with the
occasional nude female as Eve or Bathsheba. They were in the vernacular
with no attempts at historical realism and were apparently often witty and
satirical. In other words popular entertainment of their time. I think that
this is the kind of effect that Wolfe has recreated here, but with ideas
and symbolism relevant to the future age.

There was also a tradition of Morality Plays, in which the characters were
abstractions such as The World, The Flesh and The Devil, Universal Wisdom
and Death. There are similarities here with Talos's  introduction to the
first performance, referring to the players as Strength, Courage, Vice,
Death etc.

I do like the idea of a posthistoric Mystery Play, with angels, giants,
laser pistols and spaceships. I'd love to see it performed by some
inventive theatre company. I know of a few that could probably do it
justice, but I don't suppose there are enough people aware of the mythology
of the late period Commonwealth to make it worth their while!


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